See Me Through
Disclaimer: Don't own anything. Title inspired by Florence + the Machine's cover of "you've got the love."
Spoiler: 3.17 "Bloodstream"
A/N: So a lot has happened in recent weeks that has prevented me from posting this one shot earlier, but it was still a joy to write it and I hope you guys enjoy it. Huge, huge, huge thanks to Duppy Conqueror for editing it. Just to refresh you guys' memory, this takes place directly after the final scene in 3.17 when Byron Jordan gives Jane the St. Sebastian medallion as a sign of his gratitude for Jane helping his wife receive a kidney. I was really bothered by the fact that the show missed out on an excellent opportunity to have an awesome Jane/Lisbon wrap up scene in favor of hitting us over the head with Jane's man!pain…again. So this is what came out of my retaliation. Enjoy!
"You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time."
- Abraham Lincoln
After bidding Byron good bye, he takes his tea and goes up to the attic. The medallion, tucked away in his jacket, weighs him down with every ascending step. It's certainly a nice gesture, a much better parting gift than he usually receives after cases.
However, instead of being pleased or feeling accomplished, Jane is troubled. And it's only when he enters the attic and his eyes immediately fall on one of the bricks in the wall behind which he keeps Max Winter's gift that he realizes why.
It's not the medallion itself that bothers him, it's what this gift and all the others imply that make his insides twist unexpectedly. The realization hits instantly and he turns away from his cornflower blue tea cup in disgust and drops onto the makeshift bed, absolutely perplexed.
He suddenly remembers the conversation with Todd Johnson, the one he had in this very room, telling the murderer that in order to execute revenge you had to conceal what was in your heart. But it seems that he's failed to do that very thing, because one man seeing his weakness and grief could be considered a coincidence, but two, and both suffering because of their wives was too significant for Jane to simply write off.
And if they could tell…
He can no more stop the image of dark hair and green eyes from flashing before him than he can stop the guilt that follows. Jane glances once more at the slightly crooked brick beneath the window before pushing away the thought.
It works for several minutes, his control over his mind and body a practiced technique and he executes it flawlessly, reclining on the worn mattress and closing his eyes, willing himself to breathe steadily. But the medallion feels like a rock, pressing painfully into his chest. Combined with the concealed gun looming overhead, it all becomes too overwhelming. In horror, Jane feels himself losing a grip on his reaction, heat spreading uncomfortably all over him and his heart rate speeding up.
Self-doubt creeps in for just a moment and throws off his tightly controlled equilibrium. Confidence is the key to maintaining any con and now that two complete strangers have so easily divined his secrets, Jane can't help questioning how good his fraud really is. These tiny chips in his usually unwavering self-confidence web together into a large crack, and to Jane's horror the room starts to spin around him, his breathing coming in erratic and shallow bursts.
Jane is mortified because he knows a panic attack when he sees one, he used to "treat" people who suffered from anxiety, but he's always considered himself above such weakness. It would seem he's been taken down a notch or two because recognizing the attack for what it is doesn't make his heart beat slow down. In fact it just doubles his fears. Has he been this transparent all along?
Without thinking, he rises sharply and swings his legs onto the floor, destination already in mind before he even opens the heavy attic door. He doesn't think about how selfish he is, how all he does with her is take, and then convinces himself that he's keeping things from her for her own protection. He sets those facts aside because in his current state, they have the ability to break him, tarnish his resolve, make him tell her everything and that's just not an option.
It's too late, he tells himself, and by the time he reaches her office door, he's calm enough to affect his usual air of confidence and nonchalance. It doesn't matter that he's only now starting to breathe again, as long as he can keep the lazy smile on his face and the amusement in his eye.
It helps that Lisbon seems perfectly unaware of his presence, too absorbed in what Jane considers to be absolutely mundane paperwork. But, he understands the enthusiasm with which she signs every form and carefully scans it before turning it over into the finished pile. For her this isn't tedious work, at least not today.
No, today it is a reaffirmation of her status, of her position on the team, a comforting reminder that at the end of the day, she's the one with this responsibility and if Jane is honest, it gives him a certain level of comfort too. He's infinitely glad that she's back in her role as team leader and he plans to tell her so, but he doesn't have a chance.
"You know, it's kind of rude to stand in someone's doorway and just watch them when you think they're not looking, not to mention creepy."
Lost in his musings, Jane is caught off guard by Lisbon's tease and realizes very quickly that he isn't sure how to reply now that he's been quickly figured out. Then she looks up and when he finds not a single trace of annoyance or irritation in her expression, his anxiety instantly melts away.
Ignoring the repercussions of what this means, Jane smiles, genuinely smiles for the first time tonight and walks swiftly through the door, dropping into one of the chairs opposite her desk.
Tonight, her couch is too far away for his liking; right now he needs the reassurance of her easy smile and wary green eyes. He pushes the guilt away, the needling voice in the back of his head reminding him that he shouldn't be here in the first place.
Instead, he focuses on challenging her verbally, as he's been known to do.
"Well it's also particularly rude to refuse a team's invitation for drinks after such an interesting case, especially since it would be in honor of your reinstatement and Cho's demotion."
"Hey, I have paperwork." She defends her decision, tapping her pen against the forms in front of her.
However, despite the subsequent chuckle she emits and her reply, Jane still notes how the mention of her temporary punishment still affects her. So he quickly decides that unless she says anything first, he will make no more allusions to the ridiculousness that transpired at the CBI offices during the last case.
He likes Cho, he really does. He enjoys the Asian man's taste in literature, his quick, sharp mind, his dry sense of humor, and his ability to run down a suspect as quickly as men twice his height, but there's a reason why Cho's not in charge. He made a competent leader no doubt, but there's only one agent who has the finesse, the professionalism, and the expertise to lead the team with the highest closing rate in the state. And she's sitting across from him.
Looking back on it, Jane knows there's a reason why he kept away from the office for the last few days and it's likely because he didn't want to confront the situation. Subconsciously, he didn't even want to think that Lisbon was being reprimanded in such an unjust and irritating way by someone who has been paid by the bureau to go on a wild goose chase.
He also felt guilty, because he knew where Madeline was and yet ironically, Lisbon's disinterest in finding her earned her LaRoche's suspicion and a very unjustified demotion. All of a sudden, he's overwhelmed by the urge to tell Lisbon how inexplicably glad he is that she's back in her rightful post.
"For what it's worth, I'm happy all is right with the world again and you're back to where you should be."
Her gaze flickers towards him and for a moment, he can't read her expression. It should be terrifying, but instead Jane finds the challenge in reading Lisbon's face thrilling. He smiles at her until the tension in her face dissolves and she grins back, pen still hovering over the documents.
"Thanks but it's not like it was for too long and besides, you barely interacted with Cho the entire time. It doesn't seem like it would matter to you, or affect your work."
Oh, so she noticed, Jane thinks and pushes aside the discomfort in his chest to argue the point with her, feeling the familiar tingle that comes from a good debate with the argumentative brunette.
"Well of course it would affect my work." He exclaims, moving towards the edge of the chair, "for one thing, if you weren't my boss, you wouldn't need to reprimand me when I did something outside the bounds of legality."
This time, Lisbon puts her pen down completely and looks utterly confused at him, arching an eyebrow in his direction. "And that would be bad because…?"
"Well, it wouldn't be bad for you, but it would be bad for me."
"And why is that?" Lisbon pushes on, still apparently not understanding and Jane smiles at the crease in her forehead, the determination to comprehend mingling with amusement.
"Because you like me and Cho doesn't."
"That's not true." Lisbon counters, shaking her head slightly.
"It is. He likes me enough to tolerate me on the team as one of his colleagues but he would never have my back the way you do if he was the boss."
It's only when he sees the surprise in Lisbon's expression that he realizes the gravity of what he has just inadvertently admitted but for whatever reason, he doesn't censor himself. Perhaps it's just a way for him to tell her something, anything, to lessen the guilt from all the lying he's been doing to her for months now.
Whatever his reasons for giving up this tiny crumb of truth to Lisbon, he continues undaunted. "Cho would never risk his career and reputation for me the way you have. That's actually why I stayed away from the office because I was afraid that if I had to actually witness Cho giving you orders, I would have done something incredibly sinister to LaRoche and I don't think that would be a good thing for either of us."
He pairs the admission with a small but very genuine smile, the kind he reserves only for her and these moments between them, which in of itself contradicts everything he's tried to tell himself about his relationship with Lisbon. Yet all of that seems so trivial at the moment, because he can see that she's unsure of his sincerity, and that feels worse than any guilt he's encountered thus far.
"I mean it." He says reassuringly, even before Lisbon says anything, and despite the tension in her shoulders, her lip curves upwards and she ducks her head, eyes obscured slightly by her bangs.
"I know," she responds quietly but earnestly, now toying with the ball point on her desk.
"Thank you for resisting the urge to do LaRoche harm because it really wasn't necessary-…"
"If you tell me right now that LaRoche was doing his job…" Jane warns, anticipating her next words.
"He was." Lisbon counters, voice rising slightly. "LaRoche is a bit of an ass, but I mouthed off to a superior. I know I haven't trained you well enough to believe in consequences, but there are repercussions for that sort of thing."
Despite the thrill he feels at bantering with her, the fact that she's standing up for LaRoche on this irks Jane a little more than usual. It's typical of her to internalize the blame in every situation but he'd seen the way LaRoche's beady eyes nearly sparked when Lisbon reproached him, as if the older man had simply been waiting for an excuse to teach her a lesson.
"Perhaps if he hadn't manipulated you into it then I would agree with you but he deliberately approached you on a case to discuss Hightower knowing it would set you off because you would be annoyed at his assumption that you had anything to do with it. And he did all this conveniently before mentioning to you his new position, because he needed a reason to demote you and knew you wouldn't dare speak your mind to your superior, regardless of how much you wanted to."
Jane expects Lisbon to be at least a little surprised at this revelation but her calm expression lets him know that this isn't a revelation to her at all.
"So you're saying I shouldn't excuse LaRoche's actions, because he manipulated me?"
"Yes." Jane nods, glad she seems to agree with him.
"And because he kept a vital piece of information from me, which led to me making a foolish decision to reproach him?"
"Yes although I wouldn't call the decision foolish," Jane nods again, although feeling less certain now, a part of him sensing that he's the one being trapped somehow.
Lisbon doesn't say anything for a moment, but fixes him with a pointed stare, at which point Jane realizes exactly what parallel she is about to draw and feels more discomfort than usual, the insight prompting him into a defense.
"Hey now, you can't compare me and LaRoche. That's apples and oranges Lisbon."
"Really how so?" Lisbon asks, looking more amused than anything.
"Because," Jane pauses and draws a blank.
He hates to admit it but in some ways he and LaRoche do have a similar approach in how they deal with people. Jane has tried to keep himself as far away as possible from the man but he's seen his interaction with the rest of the team and is certain LaRoche is perfectly capable of his own machinations. However, he refuses to be compared to him especially where Lisbon is concerned, because he would never intentionally manipulate her…well he has, but it's always been with some greater purpose in mind.
With LaRoche, that purpose had been not only to humiliate Lisbon but also to remind her that he had some sort of upper hand on her. The only time Jane ever exercised that right was when they played pool occasionally or debated about what the better beverage was, coffee or tea.
Jane ignores the fact that lying to someone is pretty much on par with manipulation and finally finishes his thought. "Because what LaRoche did was deliberate and cruel and regardless of what you think, it's never my intention to hurt you. In fact-
"Jane, stop." Lisbon cuts him off, voice much firmer than her demeanor, "I was merely teasing." She confesses. "Other people do that sometimes you know."
She flashes him a small smile but Jane doesn't return it, frowning and narrowing his eyes at her instead. "Are you sure?"
Jane assumes that he looks so pitiful that Lisbon has no choice but to elaborate. Her eyes flash with guilt before she exhales, and runs a tired hand across her own cheek.
"Look, never doubt that I find your method of working cases completely ridiculous, not to mention dangerous, but I am aware that usually you won't manipulate anyone from the team, or lie to us for your own personal amusement. Besides not only did LaRoche try to push my buttons, but he also insinuated that I would help Hightower escape, which just means he doesn't know me at all. So yes Jane, I was merely teasing, you can stop overreacting now."
Lisbon smiles again, one of those rare smiles that exposes her teeth and makes her eyes glitter in all their dark jade glory and Jane instantly realizes that this is what happy Lisbon looks like. Happy because she's back in her element and nothing, even his panicked interruption of her paperwork routine, can spoil this moment for her.
Suddenly, Jane comes to the ugly realization that he could easily destroy both her benevolent mood and any good feelings she may have towards him by disclosing what he knows, not only about Red John, or the gun in his attic, but also about helping Hightower flee. This precipitates the same bout of panic as before and Jane only realizes he's stood up abruptly when Lisbon sends him a troubled look.
"Jane, are you alright?"
The concern etched on her forehead makes him feel even worse and he knows if he doesn't find a reason to escape this room, at least for a moment, he will ruin everything by telling Lisbon the truth. Unbeknownst to her, Lisbon does have the ability to make him question his motives, his reasons for everything he does, everything he's planned on doing for close to a decade now. As cliché as it is, she makes him want to be a better, more honest person rather than the lying coward he's been for months now. However, Jane isn't sure he's ready to face the possibility that it might actually be something that he wants as well.
So he resists the urge to run his shaking fingers through his hair, determined to conceal any sign of inward turmoil, and grins at Lisbon right away, hoping to distract her enough that she won't notice his erratic behavior.
"I'm perfectly fine, Lisbon. Thanks for asking but I am incredibly parched. Would you like to have some tea-not coffee-with me?"
The allusion to their early discussion of preferred beverages diverts Lisbon's attention, and she exhales with a hint of annoyance but hands him her empty green mug anyway.
"Alright fine, but mine better be black, none of that honeycomb and vanilla crap, okay?"
Jane nods a bit too enthusiastically and accepts the proffered cup with the CBI logo.
"Of course, dear," he gives her one more smile before sauntering out of her office. He only allows himself to breathe in relief once he is outside, even though he's acutely aware that Lisbon watches him through the half opened door, her expression confirming that his attempt to distract her was only fleeting.
It takes Jane the exact amount of time that the water boils to calm down and push away the panic that threatens to consume him. Instead of the dispenser, he opts for the rarely used electric kettle to make their tea. This process takes a lot longer but when he returns to her office, Lisbon doesn't say anything about it. She merely thanks him for the tea, and takes an appreciative sip before resuming her paperwork.
Jane smiles at her, indulging in the warmth of her contented expression but doesn't linger much longer and quickly settles on her couch, setting his own tea aside in favor of laying prone on the softness. His body relaxes against the plush cushions and he instantly notes the distinction between the lumpiness of his attic bed and this sofa. He can't help but feel a hint of triumph, pleased with his purchase and glad that Lisbon, the chronic workaholic, has somewhere she can lie down in case she ends up spending the night in the office.
Although recently, she's been working less ridiculous hours, given LaRoche's latest exercise in manipulation that may no longer be the case and he feels irritation towards the man returning, simmering just beneath the surface.
He wills the thought away however, fearing that thinking of LaRoche will lead him to draw the same comparison Lisbon teased him about and he doesn't want to confront the fact that he may have more in common with the senior agent than he would like. Instead, Jane closes his eyes and tries to clear his mind, employing the same tactic that failed him when he first went up to his attic but hoping that Lisbon's presence will be the key to divesting him of all this inner turmoil.
Concentrating on the sounds of her pen sliding across the triplicate forms and the steady rhythm of her breathing, Jane doesn't even notice he is relaxing until he comes to the brink of sleep. That's when he remembers the look Max Winter gave him before handing him the wrapped present, the same look that Byron Jordan had as he told Jane to keep the medallion.
A look of understanding, of familiarity, and one that still makes Jane feel as uncomfortable now as it did when he was first confronted by it. Unconsciously, he slides the small silver pendant from his breast pocket, running his thumb over the engraving, inspecting it carefully as if it will give him the answers he didn't know he was looking for. Caught in his ruminations, Jane doesn't notice that Lisbon is now openly staring at him until its too late and he realizes he's been caught. Although he's not sure what he's doing exactly, he knows she can tell he's troubled and will not let it go this time.
And a part of him feels liberated at the thought that there is something that he doesn't have to hide from Lisbon; that this is something he can talk to her about and maybe, possibly she may be able to shed some light on the situation.
Instead of feeling vulnerable, Jane feels empowered and doesn't hesitate in answering her when Lisbon asks what he's holding in his hand.
"It's a medallion Byron Jordan gave me."
"The guy whose wife needs a kidney transplant?" Lisbon asks; her eyebrows furrowed in that distractingly adorable way that signals she's confused.
"Yes. His wife is finally getting the surgery and he thought I had something to do with it, so he gave me this as a token of his appreciation." Jane explains briefly, still turning the medallion over in his hand, watching how it glints in the dim lighting of Lisbon's office.
"That's nice of him." Lisbon comments evenly but Jane doesn't need to look up to know that she's still perplexed, quietly debating whether she should press him further on the issue or not.
The desperation he felt earlier, when the urge to tell her everything nearly broke his resolve returns and he realizes that it's not just about lessening his guilt, it's about unburdening his soul. It's about opening up to the one person who has been a stable force in his life; the one person who can give him the greatest comfort and moments of joy, even if she is probably completely oblivious to it.
All of a sudden, he feels remorse for an entirely different reason. He's not sure why he's experiencing all these warring emotions, why his mind won't let him rest, reminding him of every single time he's made Lisbon's job difficult or undermined her in some way. But he doesn't over think it, doesn't let his rational side keep him from doing this, and although Lisbon, surprisingly, returns back to her paperwork instead of probing him further, Jane sits up and slides to the edge of the couch before addressing her again.
"Hey Lisbon," He calls to her and his expression must reflect exactly what he's thinking, because Lisbon flashes him a look full of concern and immediately gives him her undivided attention.
"When you first met me, did I give off the impression that I was…well damaged or hurting?"
The words tumble out from his lips in the most awkward way possible. They feel foreign as they hang suspended in the air between them as if Jane cannot believe that he's the one who has spoken them.
It seems like Lisbon is thinking the same thing because she narrows her eyes at him, searching for something, perhaps a hint of insincerity, but Jane swallows down the knot of fear building in his stomach and stares right back at her, hoping she will see that this isn't some attempt of his to toy with her. That he's genuinely curious and has no other way of finding out what he needs to know.
"Well I knew what happened to you and I had briefly skimmed your personnel file…" Lisbon begins, response measured and logical and exactly what Jane doesn't need right now.
"I know but forget that." He feels himself rising from the couch but doesn't realize it until he's leaning against her desk, a familiar burst of adrenaline guiding him.
"Okay," Lisbon nods, physically leaning away from him, confusion now her chief emotion. Jane notices this and retreats slightly, the pendant still in his grasp as he turns to pace the length of her office, now grasping for a way to articulate his meaning.
"How did I seem to you when we first met?" Jane reiterates again, but realizes that this roundabout question will not do. That in order to calm his fears, to understand exactly what others who look close enough see in him, he needs to pose the query head on.
He stops in the middle of the room, ignores Lisbon's startled look, and clutches his fist around the pendant. "How do I seem to you now?"
It's such a loaded question that Jane feels his breath catch in his throat a moment after he says it. He refuses to back down though, doesn't want to run from the consequences of this, because this is something he needs to know. He needs to know if he is as transparent as he now thinks he is, if all his pain and grief and anger are so blatantly written on his face that a complete stranger like Byron Jordan can identify it after just a few days.
Of course, it's not that simple and he doesn't even hold it against Lisbon when she meets his earnest questioning with confusion. "Jane? Where is this coming from? What's going on?"
And for some reason, this time the obvious concern in her voice, the way she stares at him with unguarded worry breaks him. He sinks down into the chair opposite her desk, exhaling as he runs his thumb over the engraving of St. Sebastian as if he's actually trying to draw strength from it.
"When Byron gave me this medallion he also said that it helps people who are in pain."
He doesn't elaborate any further, but it seems that Lisbon doesn't need any more explanation. Awareness passes through her gaze and her lips nearly curve downward, but the pity he expects to see never materializes. Instead, her eyes soften and the empathy reflected there tightens his chest unexpectedly, making him both regret and appreciate having Lisbon in his life, the former for her sake and the latter for his.
He's so consumed with reading her expression that he doesn't realize that Lisbon has rounded the desk and is now perched atop it, arms crossed over her chest as she faces him, a lot closer than he anticipated her to be. The fact that she's willingly chosen to close the proximity between them sends an unexpected surge of warmth through him but Jane ignores it, because he knows it's not safe.
Regardless of whether she senses it or not, he's vulnerable right now and that makes him dangerous, unhinged in a way that has nothing to do with Red John.
"You know it's natural for people who experience a trauma to reach out to those who have helped them, it may not necessarily be anything they see in you." She explains smoothly, evenly, and without realizing, Jane already feels the first wave of calm washing over him.
Still, he remains silent, unconvinced and Lisbon exhales briefly before continuing, "It may just be a reflection of what they're feeling, rather than anything else." She adds but Jane immediately realizes that while that might be true for Byron Jordan, it wasn't for Max Winter. The widower had given him a gun; a gift with a specific purpose and Jane knows that with this key piece of information, Lisbon would not reach the same conclusion.
But he can't tell her about the gun and the frustration bubbles up inside him again, and the feeling of being trapped inside his own secrets threatens to dissolve him into panic again. This time he's probably not so good at hiding his feelings, because in front of him, the brunette tenses and gives him a long, pensive look, biting the side of her lip as she no doubt weighs out her options.
The familiarity of this scene, the fact that he knows her so well, and that she in turn can provide him with the only real outlet he's had in years relaxes him even further, which is why her words pierce right through him, an unexpected but ruthless punch in the gut.
"And even if they do identify with you, what's the harm in it?" Lisbon asks, making sure to approach it gently. "What's so wrong with showing weakness every once in a while?"
He isn't sure how she expects him to react, whether she wants him to tell her that it's ironic that she of all people is talking to him about being vulnerable when she keeps so much of herself in nicely spaced, locked boxes but that's not what crosses Jane's mind at all.
"You know very well, Lisbon." He nearly snarls, guided by some unknown force as he remembers the last time he was truly vulnerable, the masked face inches away from him and his body chained to a chair leaving him absolutely helpless.
A flash of something, perhaps annoyance, flickers in her eyes but Jane doesn't see it, not clearly anyway. He bolts unexpectedly from the chair but it doesn't help his state of mind, because he's now standing directly in front of her, centimeters separating their bodies. He can smell her perfume, can see the freckles on her nose and the slight blush on her cheeks and it would be so easy to just reach out and…
But then he sees it, marks the exact moment realization dawns on her, replacing any heat or desire that he might have seen reciprocated. Despite their proximity Jane suddenly feels a wall between them, an ugly brick wall as Lisbon understands exactly why he cannot afford to show even a shred of weakness.
"It's always about him, isn't it?" She murmurs under her breath, but her look could not be more icy or direct. The usual compassion in her warm green gaze is absent and Jane swallows, preparing himself for the sting of regret he is about to feel.
He stands silent, for once unsure of what to say. Then when Lisbon lets out a tight, humorless chuckle, that's unlike her, there's a tiny second in which his certainty in his deceit wavers, when that part of him that's been yearning to break out of the confinement of his own secrets shouts louder than his rationale. It scares him because he can handle what his secrets are doing to him but tainting her…that just isn't fair.
This time, he dares to reach out but Lisbon is the one who moves away, sliding out from between him and the desk before Jane can even utter her name.
"I get it now." She says and a hint of bitterness drips into her voice as she glances down. "You're afraid that if a complete stranger can sense your weaknesses then maybe you're not as impenetrable as you think you are."
Lisbon pauses then, no doubt to gauge his reaction but he uses the last bit of his resolve to remain stoic and so she continues. "So, maybe the people who spend every day with you see it too, and that means Red John could spot your chinks a million miles away."
The incredulity in her tone is obvious and it suddenly makes Jane angry, irritated that to her it's such a ludicrous concept. He can feel his own eyes narrow as he catches her gaze, his tone more condescending than he would like.
"And can you tell me why that seems so obviously appalling to you?"
"You mean besides the sheer absurdity of your logic?" Lisbon fires back, but Jane sees that she immediately regrets it. A part of him triumphs at the idea that she's not holding back, that she's actually speaking her mind, because subconsciously he came here tonight not only to reassure himself that he wasn't an open book but also because he knows Lisbon is the only one capable of challenging his views, even a little bit.
He's certain that she has absolutely no idea that she has any sway with him at all and why should she? As well as she knows him, he has never given her any indication that her opinion matters to him, especially when it comes to Red John. If anything, it would seem that he has gone out of his way to exclude her from his decision making, only giving her a brief overview of his future plans without really consulting her.
That's not what partners do, not what teammates do, and certainly not what friends do, if their relationship could even be described as that. But there's a far greater part of him that overrides the stab of guilt he feels and the desire to tell Lisbon everything, forces him to regain his focus.
Jane opens his mouth to say something, argue his point just to keep her talking, but Lisbon doesn't let him. She heaves a tired sigh as she looks down at the floor and then back up at him, green eyes piercing but apologetic beneath her thick, black lashes.
"Look, I'm not going to argue about this with you. You've had your mind made up about this since last year but I will tell you this," She pauses then, and does something so wholly unexpected Jane feels his breath catch in his throat.
Although he can barely feel her touch on the lapel of his jacket, it seeps through three layers of clothing and burns him with a longing that he isn't prepared for. It's then that he realizes that despite the volatility of their argument, they haven't been more than a few inches apart this entire time and now Lisbon is holding onto him, fingers curled loosely around the material of his jacket, thumb running across the edge.
He isn't prepared for this, for the warmth of her closeness and the desire that begins stirring within him, but despite all that he listens intently, eyes trained on her with an intensity that seems to be reflected by her own determined gaze.
"The way you interact with people… your ability to connect with them it's your greatest gift. I've worked hundreds of cases with you, and when you're not concerned with pissing someone off and giving me extra paperwork, you can reach out to even the most closed off individual. It's something remarkable Jane, something to be proud of and it definitely shouldn't be looked upon as a weakness."
By the time Lisbon finishes talking, there's a small smile playing her lips and Jane again notices how lively her expression is. She's careful to guard it, but in her eyes he sees hope, and for a second, it saddens him, because he understands and has for a long time that he may never be the kind of man Lisbon thinks he's capable of being, the kind of man that deserves to have her as a friend, never mind something more.
"And most importantly, even if you do see it as a weakness, you shouldn't be afraid of what I, or the team, have to say about it, because we're family, and we accept each other's flaws. You should believe that."
Her hand slides from his jacket, a lingering path down his torso and then away; it's just a brush of her fingers but he feels the absence of it immediately, the sudden coldness around him as she once again folds her arms over her chest.
Her words swirl in his head, the word family repeating on an endless loop, reminding him both of the one he lost and the one he's determined to protect this time around. And even though that's exactly why he should shield everything in his heart like he told Todd Johnson to do, he finds himself utterly a low, "I know" in response.
Her shoulders drop just a little and she glances down at the floor again, as if she thinks he's agreeing simply to humor her. Jane knows he should do something, reassure her in some other way, but it feels like the medallion is now weighing him down like a ton of bricks, bringing him to the bottom of the ocean without any oxygen.
He also cannot stand this close to her anymore, not when he's completely uncontrolled, in danger of falling victim to his deepest wants from which he will not find his way back. So, Jane takes a step back and regrets it immediately when Lisbon unsuccessfully tries to hide her disappointment.
"I'm done here so I think I'm going to head out," she breaks the silence between them, looking somewhere past his shoulder.
At the last minute their eyes link and this time, he doesn't hide how he feels about her leaving. Lisbon seems to pick up on it, because in a second, her demeanor changes and she gives him a weak smile.
It doesn't expose her dimple or the brilliance of her eyes, but when she tells him that she can probably stay to finish her tea and heads over to the plush new couch (that he bought for her) with her mug, Jane doesn't think about the particulars, in fact he doesn't think about anything at all as he follows her.
For the first time in hours, he feels a sense of unparalleled contentment as he slides onto the couch with her and they sip their tea in silence.
He wakes to a faint scratching sound but doesn't move, not even when he identifies the source of the disturbance as the midnight janitorial staff making its usual rounds. He's not tired either, but surprisingly alert. Yet he doesn't feel a sense of urgency or panic, just peace seeping deep into his bones even though the entire right side of his body is asleep.
Glancing down, Jane realizes exactly why he doesn't mind the strange duality. Tucked right against his shoulder, Lisbon appears very small and dangerously appealing as she sleeps. At this angle he can't see the way her dark lashes are splayed across her cheeks, but he can feel her breath against him, as well as the rise and fall of her chest as she lies besides him.
Despite the impending arrival of the janitor and the knowledge that he really will have to wake her up soon, Jane leans back against the couch, perfectly content to give into a few moments of respite, free of everything besides Lisbon and how good she feels curled up against him. But then as she shifts in her sleep, Jane catches sight of her face, and the pure ease he sees there makes his heart constrict painfully.
He knows that in her wakeful state, Lisbon would never be this unguarded with him and despite feeling the most relaxed that he has in a while, the cold grip of reality threatens to push that all away as he realizes that eventually he is going to have to tell her his secrets.
And sooner rather than later if he has any hopes of salvaging their already precarious relationship.
It scares him that he still contemplates this, that despite his greatest resolve, he can still be swayed from his focus on Red John by the people around him, those that consider him family; those that in all likelihood are in greater danger than they realize.
The thought propels him into action, but instead of doing the right thing, waking Lisbon up and getting as far away from her as possible, his arm moves gently of its own accord. He wraps it around her, using every bit of his will power to fight off the heat building inside him as she tucks her head into his shoulder.
But it's not that simple and as he watches her sleep, almost subconsciously all the images of serial killers and ugly red caricatures disappear, replaced by visions of the dark haired beauty in his arms, moments when she's smiling or scowling or simply just existing around him flashing in his mind's eye.
For the first time in what seems like months, Jane pushes all rationale aside and pulls her closer, relaxing into her warmth as he closes his eyes. Invariably, when they wake up, Lisbon will be embarrassed and irritated and he will have to face the fact that despite the platitudes she offered him before, it's likely that she knows him better than anyone and that his pain is as obvious to her now as it was the day he met her.
But for now, Jane's only concern is that he doesn't wake Lisbon as his fingers tangle in her hair, the intoxicating scent of vanilla and cinnamon lulling him back into the most peaceful sleep he's had in years.